‘Be a listening ear’: Teacher is new equity and inclusion coach

Brown County Schools staff now have a co-worker they can go to for help if they feel they have been discriminated against.

On Jan. 21, the Brown County Schools Board of Trustees approved Helmsburg Elementary School teacher Malini Stiles as the equity and inclusion coach for the district.

This is a new position that educators wanted to include in this school year’s teacher contract, Superintendent Laura Hammack explained. It comes with a $2,226 stipend per school year and will be in addition to Stiles’ job as a classroom teacher.

If an employee feels they have been discriminated against, intimidated or harassed and they don’t feel comfortable going to their supervisor, they can go to Stiles instead.

“It’s a nice way we can make a very safe process for reporting so no one felt like they would be retaliated against,” Hammack said.

Stiles has been working at Helmsburg Elementary for nine years. She is a third grade teacher this year, but she also has taught first and second grade and Title I classes.

Stiles is also a Brown County High School graduate. Growing up in Brown County, she knew only of herself, her sister and another family who were of a different nationality.

“Diversity has always played a huge part in our lives,” she said.

“When I applied for this position I did tell Dr. Hammack that as a former student of Brown County Schools, I’ve received discrimination about race and also once as a teacher. I felt like I could bring a lot to the table because I’ve had that happen in both areas of my life,” she said.

“It’s my job to collect all of the information, be a listening ear and share that information with those that are more in charge.”

Stiles was introduced to school district employees on Jan. 31 during a districtwide professional development training in diversity, equity and inclusion.

As of late February, Stiles said she had not received any discrimination complaints from employees. “It could be months before someone comes to me, or it could be tomorrow,” she said.

“I just hope that I can make people more aware of how important diversity is, whether it’s diversity in religion, gender, race, sexual preference or whatever, just make people more aware that we’re all people and we all matter regardless of those things,” Stiles said.

Stiles is also a member of the district’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee of staff members that was created in 2018. The school board approved a resolution in November committing to ensuring that every student, staff and faculty member feels respected and welcomed in every school building, no matter what.

At the January school board meeting, Hammack said that the school district now has a nondiscrimination and anti-harassment page on its website, which includes reporting tools for employees who experience harassment or discrimination.

Stiles will also receive Title IX training. Title IX {span}prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school that receives federal money.

“We’re having her connect with one of our counselors so she can also get some training on how to be a safe respondent … being someone who hears,” Hammack said.

“As a teacher, she is very excited to serve in this role. … She has a strong advocacy voice for equity.”